Jeanne Cooper, longtime 'Young and the Restless' star, dies at 84

IMAGE: Jeanne Cooper
Jeanne Cooper in 2011.Alberto E. Rodriguez / Today
By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

Jeanne Cooper, longtime star of the soap opera "The Young and the Restless" and mother of actor Corbin Bernsen, died Wednesday at age 84, Bernsen announced on Facebook and Twitter.

"My mother passed away this morning just a short time ago, peaceful with my sister by her side, in her sleep," Bernsen wrote. "She has been a blaze her entire life, that beacon, that boxer I spoke of earlier. She went the full twelve rounds and by unanimous decision ... won! And while her light finally gave into the wind that gives flight to all our journeys, there will always be a glimmer left behind by what she stood for."

Cooper won an Emmy for playing wealthy Katherine Chancellor for 40 years on the CBS soap opera. In 1984, her character was shown having a facelift at the same time that Cooper underwent the operation herself.

Her feud with the younger Jill Foster Abbott, who stole Katherine's wealthy husband, Phillip, was a mainstay of "Y&R" plotlines.

Co-workers were quick to praise Cooper and share memories of their time together. Bradley Bell, former executive producer and son of William J. Bell and Lee Phillip Bell, "Y&R" creators, called her "a genuine person, gifted performer, good friend to all."

His sister, Lauralee Bell, who played Christine on the show, was just a teenager when she joined the cast. "(Cooper) was the person who influenced me the most at Y&R," she said. "She was a role model to me in what it takes to be a great woman."

Kate Linder plays Esther Valentine, Kay Chancellor's longtime maid on the show. "My heart is breaking for Jeanne Cooper's wonderful family and for all of us who truly loved Jeanne through the years," she said. "This is truly the end of an era, not just for fans of 'The Young and the Restless,' but for all the people she touched throughout her long and distinguished career and life. ... I can't imagine a world without Jeanne Cooper."

Cooper was also praised for breaking down barriers for women. "She faced the challenges that American women faced as they went through the decades," said Maria Bell, former executive producer for Y&R. "She took us through what it's like to get older. She faced those challenges onscreen and off. She was an absolute icon."

Additional reporting by Michael Maloney.